Magma decompression rates during explosive eruptions of Kīlauea volcano, Hawaii, recorded by melt embayments

Bulletin of Volcanology
By: , and 



The decompression rate of magma as it ascends during volcanic eruptions is an important but poorly constrained parameter that controls many of the processes that influence eruptive behavior. In this study, we quantify decompression rates for basaltic magmas using volatile diffusion in olivine-hosted melt tubes (embayments) for three contrasting eruptions of Kīlauea volcano, Hawaii. Incomplete exsolution of H2O, CO2, and S from the embayment melts during eruptive ascent creates diffusion profiles that can be measured using microanalytical techniques, and then modeled to infer the average decompression rate. We obtain average rates of ~0.05–0.45 MPa s−1 for eruptions ranging from Hawaiian style fountains to basaltic subplinian, with the more intense eruptions having higher rates. The ascent timescales for these magmas vary from around ~5 to ~36 min from depths of ~2 to ~4 km, respectively. Decompression-exsolution models based on the embayment data also allow for an estimate of the mass fraction of pre-existing exsolved volatiles within the magma body. In the eruptions studied, this varies from 0.1 to 3.2 wt% but does not appear to be the key control on eruptive intensity. Our results do not support a direct link between the concentration of pre-eruptive volatiles and eruptive intensity; rather, they suggest that for these eruptions, decompression rates are proportional to independent estimates of mass discharge rate. Although the intensity of eruptions is defined by the discharge rate, based on the currently available dataset of embayment analyses, it does not appear to scale linearly with average decompression rate. This study demonstrates the utility of the embayment method for providing quantitative constraints on magma ascent during explosive basaltic eruptions.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Magma decompression rates during explosive eruptions of Kīlauea volcano, Hawaii, recorded by melt embayments
Series title Bulletin of Volcanology
DOI 10.1007/s00445-016-1064-x
Volume 78
Issue 10
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher Springer
Contributing office(s) Volcano Science Center
Description Article 71
Country United States
State Hawaii
Other Geospatial Kīlauea volcano
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